Celebrant: Give to the departed eternal rest.
Congregation: Let light perpetual shine upon them.
Celebrant: We praise you for your saints who have entered into joy;
Congregation: May we also come to share in your heavenly kingdom.
-Book of Common Prayer, Prayers of the People, Form III
A few weeks ago I was talking to one of the parents of a kid at Hannah Graham’s old high school, and she said that in trying to heal all the kids, the parents are still trying to be strong, not really getting to grieve on their own terms.
I told her that she couldn’t control the kids’ grief or her own, but she could use Hannah’s light to comfort others in their distress. That she was one of the people who couldn’t control what was coming at her, but she could definitely control what got through, and let those positives lift her in ways that would help children understand the enormity of loss.
In order to recreate order during chaos, Hannah’s death has to serve some purpose. Her death cannot have been a random act of violence. It was, and because there is no purpose, we are lost and mired in what was. No one on earth should ever try and be responsible for that. Thoughts of what was flow through your mind every day in the presence of grief- to dam them is to die your own death instead of absorbing their light into you and shining it on those who need it.
I didn’t know Hannah Graham, but from what I’ve heard, I wanted to. Her amazing kid-light matured into bright, beautiful sunshine that seemed to come from deep within.
That light is the essence of what Hannah gave to the world. What you do with it is your gift to Hannah.
What does it mean to give Hannah gifts even though her body isn’t physical?
Have you ever made a friend over the Internet? If you’re just e-mailing them late at night, chances are you get into the same space as when you pray. You feel connected to that person, even though they’re not physically in front of you.
My gift to you, those sitting in the light of Hannah Graham, is to write to her. Every day if you have to. Because what does it matter if Hannah writes back? You can tell her your innermost secrets, because she will never tell. In that way, because your connection has changed, it hasn’t died.
Thinking of her, writing to her, and doing things that you think she would have wanted to do with you are all ways of keeping her close to you- carrying her light inside you instead of trying to push it away and pretend that bad things don’t happen to good people. With random acts of violence, God is not the Actor. God is the Responder.
As Fred Rogers famously said, “In tragedy, look for the helpers.”
There are going to be a lot of people that tell you your grief is justified because this was all part of God’s plan.
Because I want people under age 18 to read this, I will not tell you what I really think of this type theology. All I will say is that God is not against you. God did not take Hannah away because “it was her time.” God is the one you can go to because this is so outrageously unfair. When you cry, when you scream, when you beat the walls in solitude, God is the one who listens, because my God is not the classic image of a Father in the Sky, but a piece of myself that when I feel the smallest, talks back.
Take your grief to your still, small self. Sit with it. Eventually, you will know what to do, because your brain will literally divide itself in two and you’ll have someone to argue with. I call that God, because if I think that every person in the entire world has that same still, small voice, I realize that we are all God together.
Sit with God, and remember Hannah.
The longer you sit with God talking about Hannah, the more you’ll feel like you’re actually talking to her. Your mind will recreate her in 3D, and it sounds crazy….. but so is grief. I have found that water does not put out every fire. Sometimes, in order to defeat chaos, you have to be more chaotic than what’s going on around you so that the bigger fire smothers the smaller one inside it.
Going into your small space will give you a relationship with Hannah because all of the sudden, she is one of the many faces of God with which you can have a conversation, and decide what you really feel. She will guide you, because you remember things that she would have said in similar situations when she’s alive.
And the miracle occurring is that you’re not shoving memories of her away, you’re waiting for them to appear because you want to know what she thinks.
Let her light perpetual shine on you, because I promise, it is already happening.
She told me.